Skip to main content

Full text of "The Gay Genius"

See other formats


POETRY OF PROTEST                         151

water coming up the water-wheels, he also wrote a poem called "The
Sigh of a Peasant Woman".

"This year the rice crop ripens late,
Waiting for the sharp^ dry winter wind to come.
But the rains came when the frost was due,
The sickle rusted and the rake was covered with mould.
I cried my tears out, but the rains continued.
How could I bear to see the ears lying in the mud?
After waiting for a month living in a shack,
The skies having cleared, I carted the crop home.
With sweat on my red shoulders I carried it to town,
The price was low and I begged to sell it like chaff.
Careless of next year's hunger, I sold the cow
To pay the tax and chopped the doors for fuel.
The government wants tax in cash and not in kind;
For wars in the north-west across a thousand miles,
My sons are drafted."

Again, he was writing joyous songs for the surf-riders during the
period of the Hangchow bore. It was the custom at mid-autumn every
year at Hangchow for people to come from great distances and line up
#n the bank of the Chientang River and watch the coming of the bore,
which steadily rose in height as it came in from the sea and entered the
narrowing bay. Before the bore came, there was usually a marine dis-
play. It is not clear how they rode on the surf. While they were called
by th6 name of "riders on the surf", taJang-erh, the impression was
that good swimmers rode out in small boats with red and green flags
on them to meet the oncoming bore. Su Tungpo wrote rousing popular
songs for these surf-riders to sing, and spoke of the white foam swallow-
ing up the red flags of the riders and the height of the surfs covering
half the view of the Yueh hills. But he also wrote of his inner feelings
after waking up from a drink in the early hours of the morning.

"The affairs of men are in a turmoil.
The lonely scholar's spirit is vexed.
Why should the melody of the lute
Be drowned in the noise of the kettle-drum?
Three cups can drown ten thousand worries,
And after waking up my spirit is cleansed. . . .
Sleepless with the burden of my thoughts,
I rise to see the lambent Milky Way.
Over the railings the Dipper h_as turned low,
And the bright Venus shimmers in the east."